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Leftie TV in the US, and the GIF patent

So I caught Frontline on PBS last night. At last, some leftie TV that isn’t The Daily Show! ;)

It covered — in excruciating detail — something I’d been wondering about; the massive cost (to end users) of healthcare and prescription medication in the US. The program nicely demolished the ‘but all that money is needed for R&D’ line.

Bottom line: the US drug companies are making 18-22% profit, and they’re not letting go of that. (The median for the Fortune 500 is 3.3%.)

That’s pure profit — not going back into R&D or similar. The breakdown of the biggest revenue sinks averaged across the sector, at the end of the program was: 22% profit, 18% advertising and marketing (one conglomerate in particular spent more on marketing than Pepsi), a couple more aspects of the process, and then, 4th or 5th on the list, 11% of that revenue makes it to research and development.

This should be a huge issue here, but isn’t. I can’t figure it out.

Patents: Kuro5hin has a nice wrap-up of the GIF patent story, now that the patent has finally expired (excerpt: ‘Unisys does nothing’). But what’s this? It’s still extant in Europe, not expiring until a year from now? Great example of the EPO allowing software patents to be registered, even though they’re not legal in Europe.

Mind you, it’s irrelevant now, as (thankfully) Jean-Loup Gailly and Mark Adler wrote the gzip compression algorithm, and gave it to the GNU project. Since then, gzip has now spread into every tool and virtually every platform that might possibly need compression.